Great Place Scheme: Reading Place of Culture

Reading is the recipient of a £550,000 Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England award

to help put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of the town. 

This programme aims to enhance Reading’s cultural offer, help

drive economic growth and improve the quality of life for people in Reading.


Building on the success of Reading 2016 and the inaugural Reading on Thames Festival in 2017, Reading Borough Council, with partners Reading UK and the University of Reading, are developing a three year programme to develop a range of new cultural projects including the next three years of the Reading on Thames Festival, a cultural commissioning outreach programme and a research and evaluation programme to develop best practice geared to the needs of Reading people.

The aim is to make Reading a better place to live, work and visit, with a culture of collaboration across sectors, where caring for and engaging people is achieved in partnership between the public, private and voluntary sector.





Cultural commissioning

A new Cultural Commissioning programme will fund 3 programmes for £15,000 each. The successful projects will work in cross-sector partnerships to engage marginalised or hard-to-reach communities in arts, culture and/or heritage programmes for social outcomes; health and wellbeing, educational attainment and skills development, social cohesion. Fit for purpose evaluation and monitoring tools will be developed to start evidencing the value of culture in delivering social outcomes. An end of year conference will share learning and encourage wider sector participation.Other activities include the formation of a community steering group, community consultations and workshops, a commissioning preparation workshop and networking events.


Reading Thames Festival

Celebrating Reading’s unique identity and providing a platform of excellence for residents and visitors. The festival takes place between the 7 – 16 September presenting new works from across the spectrum of performing arts, design, literature, moving image, visual arts and popular culture. The festival will present an engaging, participatory, multi-sensory adventure for explorers of all ages. The programme will respond to the Reading’s unique environment and culture and will bring together the rich tapestry of arts organisations, venues and outdoor sites across Reading to create exhilarating audience experiences and unexpected encounters, illuminating Reading as a city of parks and rivers and of culture and diversity.

Research and evaluation

Developing best practice geared to the needs of Reading people. The University of Reading is co-producing a community-led research and evaluation programme with the Whitley Researchers to ensure that the needs of Reading’s diverse communities are central to Reading, Place of Culture. The team are piloting innovative ways of exploring local residents' lived experiences of culture and heritage as well as understanding their views on health and well-being to inform the cultural commissioning/festival programmes and evaluation frameworks. A ‘Young Researchers’ team is also being developed. They will be creating visual methods and interactive community events to explore young people’s ideas around art, heritage and place.

Whitley Researchers Newsletter JUNE 2020 FINAL


Reading Borough Council, Reading UK and the University of Reading are delivering Great Place: Reading Place of Culture. Great Place is a national scheme administered and funded by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund. The Great Place scheme will enable cultural and heritage organisations to make a step-change in how they work together, and with other organisations in other sectors, in order that arts, culture and heritage contribute more to meeting local social and economic objectives. They have funded 16 pilot areas in England.



Reading Thames Festival

Contact:  Anna Doyle, ,Festival Director on behalf of Reading UK


Research and evaluation

Contact:  Sally Lloyd Evans, Associate Professor, University of Reading


Cultural commissioning

Lara Stavrinou, Cultural Development Officer, Reading Borough Council